|“Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” has its world premiere at the
39th annual Atlanta Film Festival
I have to admit, I have always preferred narratives to documentaries. For me, narratives provided an opportunity to escape, to enter a world with thrilling fictional stories and characters that everyday life simply could not provide. “Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” proved me wrong. This documentary by Neal Broffman, an ex-CNN journalist, is as engaging as it is meaningful. Sunil’s story absolutely demands to be shared with the world, and the fact that these events actually occurred make this film that much more engrossing.
Following a bout of depression, Sunil Tripathi went missing from his Providence apartment on March 16, 2013 while attending Brown University. His family converged on the city, setting up a home base on campus in an effort to find him. They put up fliers, reached out on social media, and even interviewed for the local news. A community came together to find the lost loved one. However, a month after Sunil’s disappearance, he was accused of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers. The social media and news outlets that had helped the Tripathi family reach out to find their loved one seemingly turned on them overnight, branding Sunil as the top bombing suspect.
Neal Broffman, director of this documentary, captures the negative and positive sides of social media well. His snapshots of tweets and Reddit posts add an interesting element to the film and he expertly balances the use of old home videos and photos with media clips of Sunil. As an former CNN journalist himself, Broffman shines a light on the dangers of crowdsource reporting and the moral line reporters cross when they rely on the speculation of social media posts. While there were some stylistic decisions that I thought weakened the authenticity of the film (such as the shots of the Tripathi siblings in front of a time lapse background), Broffman does a good job of highlighting the use of media in our digital world and the very real effect they have on people.
“Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi” is many things. It warns about the dangers of crowdsourced research, the uncontrollable nature of social media, and it also brings awareness of the risk of suicide from people who suffer from depression. But above all, it is about a family. A family that is put through hell after rampant internet theories branded their missing loved one as a terrorist. I recommend attending this film’s debut; if not for Broffman’s creative use of media graphics, then for the story of the Tripathi family affected by this horrible tragedy.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Help us Find Sunil Tripathi” is a competition film having its world premiere on Wednesday, March 25th at the 39th annual Atlanta Film Festival. The documentary screens at 9:15 PM at 7 Stages Theatre.